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Vilnius Intends to Immortalise Prominent Russian Democrats

Today Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, met with prominent Russian democrats visiting the capital city, such as Daniil Konstantinov, representative of the opposition who got asylum in Lithuania and current director of Rusų Europos judėjimas, Vsevolod Chernozub, blogger and journalist who got asylum in Lithuania, Irina Kalmykova, organiser of protests and solidarity actions who was given asylum in Lithuania, Evgeni Titov, former journalist of Novaya gazeta, Yulia Bashinova and Veniamin Dmitroshkin who founded a Russian-speaking kindergarten.

One of the main topics of the meeting was the method and location in Vilnius for remembrance of politician Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated three years ago in Moscow, and other prominent democrats.  The Mayor of Vilnius suggested discussing the idea of creating a square of Russian democrats in Žvėrynas, in front of the Embassy of Russia. A cosy area with ponds could have artistic elements, a symbolic bridge across the pond named after Boris Nemtsov, benches or trees named after famous democrats and victims of the regime, such as Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Nemtsov and others who died as a result of political repression. The square of Russian democrats would be also dedicated to half a million residents of Russia who took to the streets to support us after 13 January.

“We talked about commemoration of Russian fighters for democracy, in particular, Boris Nemtsov, who was a friend of Lithuania, visited it often and supported us during the events of 13 January and later. A square could be created in Vilnius in front of the Embassy of Russia in Latvių Street to demonstrate clearly that we firmly support values of democracy and that we are very grateful to Russian people who fight for values of democracy and peace in the whole region. In the square, there could be a bridge to commemorate Boris Nemtsov, a friend of Lithuania and a Russian democrat, who was assassinated. A bridge connects, encourages coming and staying. Boris Nemtsov was shot on a bridge in Moscow,” suggested Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius.

Russian democrats supported potential ideas of immortalising Boris Nemtsov and other prominent Russian democrats and thanked the City of Vilnius for the initiative.

“We are grateful to the City of Vilnius for the discussion. We know that according to existing rules streets or other areas of the city are usually named after people when ten years have passed since a person’s death, but today we found other options of commemorating him and agreed on a joint work group. Although today we do not know yet which symbolic or artistic commemoration of B. Nemtsov we will choose, the most important thing is that in Lithuania, in Vilnius, we found a way to implement our initiative,” said Daniil Konstantinov, representative of the opposition who got asylum in Lithuania and current director of Rusų Europos judėjimas.

“The meeting was very well-intentioned. I liked the idea of a bridge named after B. Nemtsov in the square very much. We could develop it further,” said Irina Kalmykova, organiser of protests and solidarity actions who was given asylum in Lithuania.

According to Yulia Bashinova, opening a square of Russian democracy with benches named after democrats is a great idea that can be implemented quickly, and after ten years have passed after the death of Boris Nemtsov it will be possible to consider a different way of commemorating him and adding other symbols to the square.

Audronis Imbrasas, a member of the Commission of Names, Monuments and Memorial Plaques of Vilnius, agreed that this would be an open square concept that provides opportunities. It could have benches or other symbols and such an open and fresh concept would be relevant over the coming decades.

During the meeting, the democrats’ position of boycotting the upcoming Russian presidential election and difficulties of processing migration documents were discussed as well.  According to the Mayor of Vilnius, the goal is to make Vilnius not only a temporary asylum for Russian democrats, but also a home where people feel welcome and loved.